About the Photographer
American, b. 1975 Kansas City, MO
Jason Lazarus refers to his ongoing series 2004-present as “the axis of [his] practice.” Creating what he calls “conceptual self-portraits,” Lazarus employs a variety of methods of production, including documentation, appropriation, performance, and constructed imagery with the artist himself serving as the project’s conceptual thread. His disjointed subject matter reflects on the challenge for artists and individuals to find their own, authentic voice within the larger narratives of history and popular culture. In tackling this challenge, Lazarus draws on moments when the private, the public, the monumental, and the banal merge. As the photographer puts it, he explores “how we all do things like watch a solar eclipse with the rest of the world and then look down and realize we have gum on our shoe.”
Lazarus’s descriptive titles help to intertwine the collective and personal perspectives that he references. His picture Obama election night rally, the sky above, November 4, 2008 is an especially minimal image that takes on political significance only after one reads the picture’s title. By striping away the of context the event—the iconic figure of the president-to-be, his supporters, campaign paraphernalia, and the Grant Park setting— Lazarus taps into a more nuanced experience of the visuals and memories of that night . The contemplative ambiance of this image evokes the point of view of a single spectator--someone trying to capture the magnitude of an event but only recording a sliver of its entirety.
Like Obama election night rally, the image Spencer Elden in his Last Year of High School (2008) recalls broader cultural narratives. Spencer Elden, who is the iconic swimming infant pictured on the cover of Nirvana’s famous album Nevermind, is shown seventeen years after the album’s release in Lazarus’s portrait. The contrast between Elden’s depiction as a baby and his appearance as an adolescent on the cusp of adulthood suggests not only the subject’s coming of age, but also the maturation of Nirvana followers who grew up with—and possibly out of—the American grunge ethos that the band embodied. Like much of Lazarus’s work, Spencer Elden in his Last Year of High School implies, rather than explicitly presents, culturally significant individuals and movements. In so doing, he allows us to uncover our own nuanced visions of collective experience, leaving the full picture just beyond reach.
Jason Lazarus completed a BA at DePaul University in Chicago (1998) and an MFA from Columbia College Chicago (2003). He is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship award (2009); the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award (2008); and the Emerging Artist Artadia Grant (2006); among other honors. His work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; the Milwaukee Museum of Art; and the Bank of America LaSalle Photography collection. Currently, Lazarus teaches at Columbia College Chicago, Robert Morris College, and the Marwen Foundation. He lives and works in Chicago, IL.